The food industry has been under a microscope, with consumers demanding not only transparent nutrition labels, but also transparent food production. Becoming a brand identified as “transparent” and “honest” oftentimes relies on the quality of work done at the manufacturing plant. Defining success at the plant level ultimately boils down to the relentless pursuit of constant and never-ending improvement.

In the rapidly evolving food industry, informed consumers interested in healthy, artisanal and convenient food are more frequently driving the latest manufacturing methods. Although encouraging the industry to grow by great strides, this also comes with its own set of challenges, and many brands have had to identify how to serve shoppers without becoming reactive.

In an effort to maintain your position as a leader in the industry, consider a renewed focus on plant operations. As exemplified by some of today’s leading food manufacturers, there are certain key elements that do their part to elevate plant manufacturing.

Upgrade your general manufacturing procedures and be adamant about rigorous staff training. As your plant is upgraded, your team members in the plant also need to be aware of each update. Rigorous training and detailed risk-based preventative measures should be taken. Consider employing outside consultants and a hold-and-release program to assist in the implementation of best critical practices. This will ensure an objective view on this critical topic.

Employ cross-functional teams. Use the resources at your disposal. Learning from fellow category leaders, as well as companies that reach beyond your own category, is an imperative way to expand your thinking and processes. Regardless of where your interest lies, opening up a dialogue with other professionals and team members is a key way to adapt to your present challenges. Rather than the teams within your plant working in silos, well-balanced plants understand that a shift in perspective can oftentimes shed new light on a current issue.

Invest in state-of-the art machinery. For the sake of greater specification control and verification, state-of-the-art machinery is an investment to consider. The machinery used within the plant should encourage consistency and supreme quality control.

Reconsider the importance of your food safety team and protocols. One thing should be apparent in a plant that enlists strict food safety protocols—an intricate attention to safety protocols on the part of each team member. Your cross-functional teams can play a pivotal role by putting food safety at the core of all they do. Furthermore, third-party certifications, such as HACCP, CFIA, USDA and SQF are effective ways to enhance food safety management and product quality while instilling trust within your consumers.

Bring clarity and strict focus to your supply chain. Enlist greater optimization of the supply chain to ensure more consistent supply and stricter adherence to your quality standards. The food industry is moving quicker than ever; flexibility and agility are the keys to bringing confidence to the supply. Planning with efficiency and addressing ever-changing consumer needs while controlling costs requires both robust technology and strong leadership, especially at the plant level. Innovation happens when supply chain leaders are focused on the company’s overall business goals and armed with visibility.

A sustainable, energy-conscious and efficient manufacturing process is key to demonstrating to consumers that your company’s values align with theirs. From the people employed within the plant to the ingredients sourced, every detail matters. Leading facilities are constantly improving processes to provide consumers with the best experience possible.